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Circus Trip 2018: Knox College and The Lincoln/Douglas Debates

Day 19 & 20, Friday, August 3, 2018 – Saturday, August 4, 2018

I spent the night in Galesburg, Illinois, a small town known for, well, being a small town? I camped at the Allison Campground at Lake Storey Recreational Area, a city park with a lot of RV’s and well, me. I was the only tent camper in a huge field of campsites. I paid my $16.00 and drove out into the field to my choice of sites!  There is a lake nearby in the park, maybe one day I will make it back there to check it out!

That evening, I chatted on the phone with friends, and enjoyed one of my Black Tea Infused Ciders from Four Daughters Winery. I also saw my very first cicada! Mind you, I have heard cicadas a lot when I have traveled in the Midwest, as they are a staple of summer. But they tend to be hidden, and not out in the open, or hanging out on the leg of my picnic table!

Galesburg is the site of one of the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858. Can you believe it!? They debated on the front steps of one of the buildings of Knox College, which faces out toward the center of town.  The founders of Galesburg and Knox College were staunchly anti-slavery, so it ended up being the perfect place for Lincoln to challenge Douglas’ views on slavery.

It’s an easy place to get to, so after I packed up camp the next morning, I checked it out. There is a plaque on the wall of the Old Main’s exterior, but otherwise you would have no idea of the history that happened here. Old Main is the only building on the Knox College campus that still exists from the time when Lincoln and Douglas debated here.  Fun fact: According to historical accounts, Lincoln climbed through a window of the Old Main building to get to the debate platform, and was reported to have said, “at last I have gone through college.”

It was a good feeling to be standing on this spot, but strangely, there was no one else around on this Saturday morning in early August. Where were all the throngs of tourists wanting to see Lincoln sites? Sigh… I guess sometimes history goes unnoticed…

After seeing Knox College, I headed over to another little visited site in Galesburg; the place where Carl Sandburg was born. Carl Sandburg isn’t exactly a famous author these days, but at one time he was. He wrote poetry, and political discourse, and a giant, fat, multi-volume tome on Abraham Lincoln. So he has to be cool, even though I will admit to never having read his Lincoln biography. One day…  I’ll share my visit to the Sandburg home next!

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Circus Trip 2018: Effigy Mounds National Monument

Day 17 & 18, Wednesday, August 1, 2018 – Thursday, August 2, 2018

After lunch and my tasting at Four Daughters Winery, I made it into Iowa – my 7th state and my 2nd new state!  I traveled to Effigy Mounds National Monument, to check out the mounds there.

I’m in Iowa!

Effigy Mounds is located in Harper’s Ferry, Iowa, and preserves more than 200 prehistoric mounds built by Native Americans of the Woodland culture in the first century AD.  The mounds are relatively unique, in that they are shaped like animals.  Thirty-one of Effigy Mounds’ 206 mounds are effigies (animals); the largest is Great Bear Mound, which is 42 meters long and a meter tall.  The National Monument was designated on October 25, 1949, and welcomes approximately 77,000 visitors per year.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Researchers don’t know why the mounds were constructed; they believe that they were built for religious ceremonies, burial ceremonies, or as clan symbols.  There are four types of mounds at the site; conical mounds that were often used as burial mounds, linear mounds (also known as “cigar-shaped”) for ceremonial purposes, a compound style which looks like a string of beads and were often used as burial mounds, and the effigy mounds, the animal shapes that make the monument famous.  Interestingly, the linear and compound mounds are only found in the Effigy Mounds Region.

I arrived in time to check out the Visitor’s Center and do a hike up to some of the mounds.  It was muggy that day and it was a nice workout!  I enjoyed being able to see the mounds up close, although I do wish that they had more platforms so visitors could view the mounds from up above.  When you are barely above the level of the mound, it is difficult to see what the mound looks like from above it.  The trail I hiked did have a great view of the Mississippi River though!

After my visit to Effigy Mounds, I found my home for the evening; the Sleepy Hollow Campground in Oxford, Iowa.  It was right off the freeway, but somehow the road noise didn’t carry so far.

This place had a lovely pool!  I ended up staying two nights, just so I would have a chance to spend a few hours in and around that wonderful pool.  It was glorious.  Some days, you just need some pool time.  I drank some sangria, read my book, journaled and was offered a job cleaning the Iowa rest area bathrooms (I know this will surprise you, but I turned it down).  It was a wonderful day of down time!

 

Facebook Memories

Ah Facebook memories, you are a complicated bunch…

I have been on Facebook for a little more than 10 years now and have posted various photos and thoughts on life along the way.  As a result, most days, I get a Facebook memories post.  And that’s where it gets complicated.

I, like other people I’m sure, have a tendency to want to remember the happy times and not the bad memories.  Facebook, I’m sure, wants to remind you of those.  But not all of my memories are happy, and even some of those that were at one time have become tainted by what came later.

I see all those posts of my early marriage, when I thought I was going to have a genuinely happy union.  I was bright-eyed and fresh-faced and wanting to make it work.  But the posts later showed a person who was just pretending.  Keeping up the appearance of a happy marriage, while I felt like I was the only one trying in our relationship.

Me on the Mary’s Rock Trail

I planned vacations, only to hear complaints about how a drive was too long or a historic site too boring, or how we didn’t do what he wanted to do, even though he hadn’t given any input when asked.  I see the pictures of him hiking far in front of me, with no interest in interacting.  I see pictures of my food at dinner, or selfies at national parks, because there was no way he was going to agree to a picture with me.  I see what I call the mug shots; those times when I insisted on a photo, and he just tried to ruin it with a sour expression.  Those Facebook memories are complicated; I loved the places we went and the things we did, but I hated having to “manage” a person who was so often so focused on the negative.

But I also see the experiences that have come since then – the trips with girlfriends and by myself, the hikes, the happy hours, family times, the morning walks.  I see that I have found joy again, that cheerful face that shines through in photos.  I have grown immeasurably and become more comfortable in my own skin.  I have gotten older, and lost love ones along the way, but still see the happy times.  I have faced my share of adversity, and despite it, I enjoy the experience of living.  I enjoy my life!  Those Facebook memories are welcomed.  Places that I want to see again, and people that I love spending time with.

My Facebook memories currently include lots of photos of my trip last year – I love seeing them but it is making me nostalgic about being on the road again.  I think about all the places I visited, and all the ones I didn’t have time to make it to.  I long for that kind of freedom again, and I hope I get more opportunities to travel without so much of an agenda or a timeline.  I worried about that last year as my trip began; would I be too nervous if I didn’t have everything planned out?  Where would I stay each night?  What if I got bored?  What if I got lost?  But it was quite the opposite in fact – I came to enjoy not having a reservation to make it to each night.  I could stay longer if I wanted to or move on earlier.  Freedom.

Me on the bank of the Yellowstone River

For now, work is keeping me from being on the road.  So I focus on those memories, and knowing that I will be making more soon!

 

Time Off

A year ago at this time, I was recently back from London, where I spent a two week vacation with friends.  It was so much fun!  I came home, finished out my last couple days at my job, and then departed on July 16th for several months on the road, traveling the country.  A year ago today, I was on the fourth day of my road trip in Glacier National Park.

On that trip, I would see some of our nation’s beautiful National Parks, historic sites, and some of the places where our Presidents lived and worked.  I would see our nation’s Capitol, and stand outside the White House for the first time.  One day, I would like to go on a tour!  I also spent some time hiking in the Utah red rock desert, and seeing some of the amazing structures left by the Puebloan people.  I still have some much to share here!

It is strange to think how different my life was a year ago.  I am so much happier not being married to a man who was bringing me down and sucking the life out of me.  I was readjusting to being on my own, and it was nice to not have drama in my personal life.  My time and my money were my own.  But I was lonely too.  I love my friends, and they are amazing, but I also didn’t want to be alone forever.  I missed Oliver, my sweet orange kitty, who went over the rainbow bridge a few weeks before.  I so badly needed a reset after a toxic job.

This year, I am a little more than three months into my new job, and enjoying it.  It is a much improved environment!  Due to a recent vacancy, I’ve been doing a lot of “other duties as assigned,” and I am looking forward to getting back to the job I was hired for.  Developmental opportunities!

What I don’t have this year is time off.  The start of any new job means the vacation balance isn’t built up yet, and that is sooo difficult…  Especially for someone like me, who likes being on the road…  I was telling one of my employees about my road trip today, and it was making me so very nostalgic.  I’m doing little mini-weekend getaways, and some day hikes with friends, but it isn’t the same as having a real vacation to look forward to!

I just got back from a quick trip to Lassen National Park.  The mountains, the alpine lakes, and the gorgeous wildflowers are incredible!  It was too short, but I made some incredible memories!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Pipestone National Monument

Day 16, Tuesday, July 31, 2018

I spent a lazy morning on my last day at Split Rock Creek State Park – I did some route planning and relaxed on the dock and got some photos of the muskrat who kept swimming by.  After leaving, I felt rejuvenated and ready to begin again.  I was off!  My destination was Pipestone National Monument, in Pipestone, Minnesota.

ME!

Pipestone National Monument is a sacred site for the plains Native Americans, including the Lakota, Dakota, and the Sioux, due to the red pipestone that is prevalent in the area, and is carved to create prayer pipes.  The Sioux took control of this land around 1700, but ceremonial pipes found in burial mounds show that this area has been quarried for centuries.  Pipestone is a type of metamorphosed mudstone, which is prized because of its soft properties, which allow it to be easily worked into the ceremonial pipes.  It is also known as Catlinite, after it was described by the American painter George Catlin in 1835.

Types of Pipestone

The land that the monument occupies was acquired by the federal government in 1893, and the last tribe to quarry there, the Yankton Sioux, sold their quarry rights in 1928.  On August 25, 1937, Pipestone National Monument was designated, and Native American quarrying rights were restored.  Today, approximately 67,500 people visit the monument each year.

The nature walk at Pipestone National Monument

The monument has restored over 250 acres to the native prairie grasses; there is a 3/4 mile nature walk where you can see some of the historic quarries and a waterfall.  It is beautiful and peaceful.  Another section of the park, that is not open to the public, contains lands that are currently being quarried.  You have to be Native American from specific tribes in order to obtain a permit to quarry pipestone there; many of the artisans who dig for the stone are third of fourth generation carvers.  There is historic evidence of the visitors here over time; some graffiti is from the 1800s.

Me at Pipestone

 

Historic graffiti

One area on the nature walk contains The Oracle; you can peek through a hole in a sign and see the face of an elderly man jutting from the quartzite stone cliffs. Unlike in The Neverending Story, The Oracle did not open his eyes or shoot laser beams from them.  Whew!

I enjoyed Winniwissa Falls, and even captured “Bigfoot” in one of my photos there – you be the judge!

I found Bigfoot!

I also saw a Green Heron, and my first ever Thirteen Lined Squirrel!

Inside the Visitor’s Center I checked out the exhibits of petroglyphs and the history of the site, and I watched a man carving pipestone into pipes.  They are truly beautiful; the finished product is rusty red with a smooth finish.

A carved pipestone pipe

After leaving Pipestone National Monument, I stopped by Blue Earth, Minnesota for selfies with two iconic figures from my childhood – the Jolly Green Giant and Sprout!  The Jolly Green Giant is 55 feet tall and has been here since 1978.  What a fun, quick stop!

The Jolly Green Giant! Him, not me…

 

Sprout!

 

I stayed the night at Oakwood Trails, in Austin, Minnesota.  It is a family owned campground on the back 40 of a farmer’s soybean and dairy farm – they were such friendly, kind people!  It was a nice campground with very few mosquitoes, which of course I really enjoyed.  The bathrooms were nice too!  Highly recommended!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Split Rock Creek State Park

Day 14, Sunday, July 29, 2018 – Day 16, Tuesday, July 31, 2018

After the Corn Palace and lunch at a Taco John’s (this was on the recommendation of a friend – I wasn’t that impressed), I stopped at a rest area.  I did some Googling and found a small state park in the middle of nowhere, not far across the border in Minnesota, and near my next destination of Pipestone National Monument.  A call to the state park reservation line revealed that they had a site for the next two nights.  Score!  I was going to decompress and just relax for a bit!  Instantly, I started to feel better, knowing the pressure was off.

Minnesota! My 5th State!

I made my way there, driving down back roads by farm fields, and heading off on a gravel road to the park.  I was a little unsure, thinking there surely couldn’t be a state park here.  But soon enough, I arrived.

Split Rock Creek State Park is on a man-made reservoir that was created in 1938, when the Works Progress Administration (WPA) dammed the creek in order to provide a lake and recreational area to fish during the Great Depression.  It was small, and beautiful.  My little tent site was right on the lake, with a dock that I could walk out on, and lay on to enjoy the sunshine.  The fish there were so plentiful that they were just jumping out of the water.

I took a nap when I got there, to shake off the fatigue that I had been feeling all day.  Then I set up camp and checked out my surroundings.

Split Rock Creek State Park is small, as state parks go.  There was an RV area and a tent area and a total of 55 sites; the tent area had no more than 10 sites.  I liked my site a lot, as it was just steps away from the lake and that little dock.  The lake had a little trail that followed the lake for a while, and there was a swimming area that was completely deserted the entire time I was there.  In fact, there was very little going on here; there was only one other tent camping family for the first night of my stay.  I never saw the camp hosts the entire time.  The busiest creatures there were the muskrats, which seemed to be plentiful. I saw at least four during my stay.

The dam is made from Sioux Quartzite, a red rock that is local to the area.  The dam and a nearby bridge made from the same Sioux Quartzite are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I spent two quiet and relaxing days there.  I didn’t say much more than hello to a soul there at the park.  I set up my tent to have a respite from the mosquitoes and the periodic rain showers, but slept in my car.  I wrote in my journal, relaxed on the dock, and took walks by Prairie Lake.

I enjoyed watching the muskrats working on their lakeside homes, cutting down reeds to build.  I loved seeing the fish jumping out of the water to catch bugs, even though I was never able to catch that with my camera.  I watched a snapping turtle checking me out from the middle of the lake, even though I couldn’t see what he was until I blew up the photos from home.  Deer ran in front of me while I was walking, I saw lots of bunnies, a woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Mourning Doves, and a Great Blue Heron.  It was peaceful and quiet, a true oasis tucked in among the farm fields.

I watched the sunsets each evening from the little dam over the creek.  Those sunsets were stunning!

Watching the sun sink lower in the sky, shooting rays in every direction, reminded me of the purpose of the trip.  To let go of the hard parts in my past, to be renewed, and to find joy.  And I did find joy there, tucked away in that tiny little oasis in a corner of Minnesota.  More than I possibly could have ever known.

 

Circus Trip 2018: 1880 Town

Day 13, Saturday, July 28, 2018

South Dakota is a bit monotonous once you get east of the Badlands.  I apologize to those of you who think eastern South Dakota is incredible, if there are any of you out there.  For me, I found it to be a long and boring drive.

It must be that the guy who founded 1880 Town thought that this stretch of the South Dakota prairie needed some livening up too; he started collecting historic buildings and moving them to this patch of land in the middle of nowhere – otherwise known as Murdo.  (Again, I must apologize to those of you who live in Murdo and don’t think it is in the middle of nowhere.  I think you are wrong, but I’m willing to be proven otherwise.)  Actually, the real story is pretty interesting.  A film was shot near Murdo in the 1970s, that was set in the 1880s; the filmmakers constructed a movie set with a main street made from historic buildings and wooden sidewalks.  After the shooting ending, they gave the set to Richard Hullinger, and 1880 Town was born.

1880 Town now has over 30 historic buildings, ranging in time period from the 1880s to the 1920s, and which include a church, school, printing office, a couple of hotels, a barn, a general store and numerous other businesses that once lined the main streets of small prairie towns.  He has them packed to the hilt with memorabilia from days gone by.  And Dances with Wolves.  Yep you got that right.  Dances with Wolves was filmed near here, and 1880 Town is now home to a gigantic collection of movie memorabilia, including set props, costumes and signed photos of the actors who starred in the film.  Everything from war drums, Costner’s sod house, Civil War operating tables and even the “dead” Cisco (Kevin Costner’s horse), is on display here. It was fascinating, if not a bit dusty.

Sod House from Dances with Wolves

 

Dances with Wolves – “dead” Cisco prop

I enjoyed wandering from building to building, checking out the artifacts, and posing inside the Wells Fargo Stagecoach.  The site is big enough that it takes a couple hours to check it out, and there are a few shops inside the buildings that serve snacks, sodas and ice cream.  You can see what a prostitute’s room would have looked like, check out the frontier jail, or experience what it was like to do your learning in a one-room schoolhouse.  This town has everything you would have been able to find in a prairie town in the late 1800s.  There is even a 14 sided barn!

 

 

 

There is a spot where you can get sodas and ice cream, and one of the hotels has a show periodically.  There are also wagon rides around the town, and you can ring the bells at the church and the school!  I bet kids really love that.

 

 

The display is a bit tired and dusty though – with a fair number of dead flies and mouse droppings in the windows and corners – the buildings need a good cleaning and a bit of maintenance.  That was a little surprising, since with the $12 admission and the number of people that were there, it seems like they could have afforded to spruce the place up a bit.  Perhaps most unusual was the gift shop, which was a mix of your typical souvenir items in an antique store with antique and vintage items.  It was fun to browse and see what they had, but nothing suited my fancy that day.

I stayed that night at Al’s Oasis campground, in Oacoma, South Dakota.  I had wanted to get a bit further on, to Mitchell, SD, but did you know that the time-zone changes in the middle of eastern South Dakota?  Yeah, me neither…  The tent area at Al’s Oasis was an open field, with water spigots marked non-potable (huh?).  It wasn’t too far to go get water though, and the grass was nice, if not totally exposed to all the RV campers nearby.  I talked to my parents on the phone that evening, and just relaxed a bit.  The main gripe I had with this campground was that the sound from the freeway carried right into my ears, and was loud and constant all night long.  I didn’t sleep well, and was crabby as a result.   Not all road trip experiences are good ones!